In a landmark move, the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (BARMM) is on the verge of making history by establishing the Philippines’ first-ever Islamic institution of higher learning. This groundbreaking initiative aims to provide a long-awaited platform for the region’s Muslim population to access comprehensive and culturally relevant higher education. With the anticipated passage of the enabling legislation, the Kulliyyah Institution is poised to reshape educational landscapes and foster a stronger sense of identity among Muslim Filipinos.
Addressing a Long-standing Need
For centuries, the Muslim population of the Philippines, which constitutes around 6 percent of the predominantly Catholic nation’s 110 million people, has yearned for an institution that resonates with their faith and cultural heritage. While Muslims in the southern islands of Mindanao and the Sulu archipelago have maintained their Islamic traditions since the 14th century, the absence of institutions of Islamic education at the tertiary level has been a glaring gap. This void is about to be filled with the establishment of the Kulliyyah Institution.
The Bangsamoro region, situated in central Mindanao, holds a unique place in the country’s history. Notably, the region was the epicenter of a four-decade-long separatist struggle that only subsided in 2014. This struggle, characterized by aspirations for self-governance, underscores the significance of the Kulliyyah Institution. By providing a dedicated space for higher learning that aligns with Islamic values and culture, the institution becomes a potent symbol of the Muslim community’s resilience and determination to uphold their identity.
Mohagher Iqbal, the Bangsamoro Minister of Basic, Higher, and Technical Education, emphasizes the institution’s importance in addressing the community’s needs. Iqbal highlights that the establishment of the school is a continuation of the historical fight for Islam during the Spanish colonial period. This underscores the profound impact the Kulliyyah Institution is poised to make on preserving and strengthening the identity of Muslim Filipinos.
Step Toward Autonomy
The creation of the BARMM in 2019 marked a significant milestone in the Philippines’ journey toward embracing diversity and fostering greater autonomy for Muslim-majority regions. The establishment of the Kulliyyah Institution aligns with the region’s transition to autonomy, which will culminate in 2025 with the election of its own legislature and executive. This move showcases the commitment of the BARMM to empower its citizens through education and self-governance.
Hub of Knowledge
The Kulliyyah Institution, overseen by the Bangsamoro Education Ministry, aims to offer diverse courses from undergraduate to postgraduate levels, focusing on Islamic studies, including law, history, culture, and Arabic language. This educational hub eliminates the need for Muslim students to seek knowledge abroad, fostering a stronger connection to their homeland. Located in Buluan, Maguindanao del Sur, the institution reflects the region’s commitment to lifelong learning. By imparting knowledge, values, and skills, it empowers the Bangsamoro people, contributing to a resilient and knowledgeable society.
The impending establishment of the Kulliyyah Institution in the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao is a historic leap forward for both the Muslim community and the nation as a whole. Beyond its role as an educational institution, the Kulliyyah Institution represents a potent symbol of unity, cultural preservation, and self-determination. As the region continues to embrace autonomy and chart its path to progress, this pioneering initiative sets the stage for a brighter future, where education becomes a cornerstone of empowerment and identity for all Filipinos.